Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pan Ams Preview - The US Team

While waiting for The Pan American Games to begin Monday,  I realized how bizarre of a team this is. This is the first international assignment for 3 of the girls, 1 girl has been to some big yet low stakes meets, while 2 more have taken the title of World All Around Champion and were on the 2008 Olympic Team. Wow. This is weirder than the 2008 Pacific Rim Competition when Rebecca Clark and Darling Hill shared the stage with Nastia Liukin. 

Now, information is limited  due to the fact that the competitors are without internet and few bloggers are there so far. We do know, thanks to a picture taken by Amanda Lauren (@amandalaurenrob), that the girls are in the icky bubblegum pink leo for podium training and that they will be competing on Gymnova equipment. 

So who ARE these girls? 

Newest to the elite scene is Jessie DeZiel, 2011 Senior C JO National Champ, Freshman at Nebraska and fabulous vaulter. She only competes 3 events, but she actually had a a pretty decent JO Bar Set. She'll more than likely compete on Vault and Floor. She may compete Beam, but who knows?

Grace McLaughlin from WOGA wasn't even supposed to be on the team. After Chellsie Memmel had shoulder surgery, she was named to it. Most likely, Grace will compete on every event but Vault, on which she only has a 1.5. She's a great bar worker and has a strong beam routine but has problems with consistency. She's also had quite a few injuries. She was out for 2010 due to what I believe was a foot injury and she rolled her ankle keeping her out of the AA at 2011 Classics. Regardless, her leaps and artistry are FABULOUS making her totally fierce.

Next is Brandie Jay who has been an elite for 2 years now and is known as "that random girl with 2 vaults". Seriously, I've heard people refer to her that way several times at meets. She's also known for her cute little haircut. What she ISN'T known for is how good her bars actually are. In addition to placing 3rd on Vault in 2011 (Behind McKayla & A-Sac) she placed 7th on Bars. She most likely will go up on all four events, possibly skipping Beam if the delegation chooses to put DeZiel up instead. I'm certain that barring disaster, she'll make Vault finals and likely even earn a medal to hang in her dorm at Georgia next year. 

Likely to medal on Bars is Bridgette "Bridgey" Caquatto. Bridgey, who competed on the European Tour and Jr. Pan Ams in 2009 and at Jesolo in 2011, has a strong DTY and will almost certainly go up on all four events. You can't help but love her "Jai Ho" Floor routine and overall confidence throughout her meets. I'd be surprised if she did not make the All Around Final. 

And finally, we come to Shawn and Bridget. Shawn's openly said that she will not be competing all four events. She'll be an asset to the team on every event but floor. If she can hit, hopefully she can make beam finals and successfully show that she has returned to the international stage. Meanwhile many fans and journalists are pinning Sloan as the favorite for All Around Champion. I'm not sure if I agree. Sloan, who hasn't competed All Around since she won the World title in 2009, hasn't been healthy in a very long time. If she can return to a good condition, I think she has a shot, but we have no idea what kind of routines she'll be competing. 

(Photo by Grace Chiu, USA Gymnastics) 

I think that everyone's in agreement that unless literally everyone falls, the US will win. The last time that the US did not win the team title at the Pan Am Champs, Games or Jr. Champs was in 1999, one of the deepest darkest years of American Gymnastics. Even this hodgepodge team has strong basics and good form; I just hope they hit. Go USA! 

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